Cross Couloir - Mt of the Holy Cross

28-29 Jun 2001 - by Steve Blecker

Jim and I decided to try for the Cross couloir on Mt. of the Holy Cross this past week. From Roach's guidebook, and a description of a climb almost exactly one year ago, we were hoping for good snow conditions this time of year. We left the trailhead around 3pm, making our way down to East Cross Creek around 4:15pm. After hiking a good 1/4 mile or so past the 'usual' turnoff to Lake Patricia (unbeknown to us at the time), we bushwacked and boulder hopped our way up toward Lake Patrica, which was our goal for the day. At some point, we stumbled across a faint trail, but just as quickly lost it. To make a long story short, when we finally saw Lake Paticia, we were actually closer to the Bowl of Tears and decided just to camp there - finally arriving at around 6:30-7:00. After a calm, and rather warm night's rest at 12,000', we were on our way to the summit at around 6:45am. The entrance to the couloir was easy enough to find, and after gearing up with crampons, helmet and ice ax, we began our ascent; the uneasiness of starting out just above the cliffs quickly fading. The deeply inset couloir and great snow made for a fantastic climb. We summitted on a calm morning (always a bonus on the summit of a 14eer) around 9am. After 1/2 hour on the top, we began our descent, with the plan being Dawson's 1.1.3 route, which takes you southwest to the low point between Holy Cross and Point 13,810' (I think). While walking along the ridge toward the saddle, we spied what looked to be somewhat of a 'shortcut' where we could hopefully traverse over toward the saddle. We dropped off the ridge near a large headwall of snow, myself making about a 15' class 4 downclimb on the rock, and Jim opting for a short but steep downclimb on snow. Once in the gully below the headwall, we headed down the steep talus and were beginning the not so short looking traverse toward the saddle, when we spied a potentially quicker and far more enjoyable descent route. 1,200' feet or so and about 10 minutes later saw us at the bottom of a nice glissade; still not sure if this was the descent route Dawson was describing, but it tough to pass up a glissade. We made it back to camp around 11am, packed up and headed out, hoping the hike out would be less grueling than the approach. Picking up a few cairns here and there and sticking to the creek bottom whenever possible, we managed to pick up a faint trail and followed that out (never really passing by Lake Patricia). When we reached the main trail, we were only about 50-100 feet west of East Cross creek. The 900' ascent back up to the pass was every bit a grueling as advertised. We made it back to the trailhead around 2:45pm. All in all a very enjoyable climb!

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